Saturday, March 31, 2012
X-men Legacy #264 - Ticking Time Bomb (of Awesome)
Consistency is a beautiful thing. Whether it's the purity of a fresh line of blow or the smoothness of a strippers ass, it's one of those rare natural phenomenon that is beautiful wherever it manifests. It very rarely manifests in comics. Consistently awesome comic series are about as rare as child stars that become well-adjusted adults. But every so often there's a fluke like Neil Patrick Harris that bucks the trend. X-men Legacy has been one of those consistently awesome X-books that you can always rely on to have a certain level of awesome. It has it's hiccups, but it's always quick to balance itself out. Mike Carey began that legacy and Christos Gage has since taken over and run with it.
X-men Legacy has a unique charm amongst the X-books. It doesn't directly follow Cyclops's team or Wolverine's team after the events of Schism. It doesn't get involved in the lingering bitterness or dick-measuring contest that drives so many of the other plots. It's unique unto itself. The fact it takes place at the Jean Grey Institute is a happy coincidence. You could easily see these kinds of stories unfolding on Utopia and unfolding nicely. Gage is able to make the most of the situation, mixing in equal parts action and character development. You can't get much more balanced without being a Korean gymnast.
The previous arc of X-men Legacy was an emotional brawl between the Legacy crew and Exodus. For reasons that can only be justified through the use of very powerful drugs, Exodus sought to undo the schism and reunite the X-men even if they kicked and screamed the whole way. While the X-men was able to subdue them with the help of Generation Hope, it put a real dent in their morale because the battle essentially made Cyclops's dick seem just a little bit bigger in that dick-measuring contest I mentioned earlier. Not only that, Rogue got demoted from her leadership position for getting Utopia involved after Wolverine told her not to. Even if it spared them additional destruction, he can take a lot of shit. He can take being burnt to the bone and sent to hell. He just can't take insubordination when it leads to making Cyclops look good.
X-men Legacy #264 picks up shortly after that rather demoralizing moment for Rogue. She's hanging out with Cannonball at the Jean Grey Institute, blowing off steam by flying around at high speeds and having a casual chat. It sounds like a fucked up way to have a conversation, but it works. Rogue actually has some emotional moments here and they don't involve Magneto's wrinkly ball sack for once. She laments over how she misses Nightcrawler and how she doesn't have a family to fall back on (at least one that doesn't want to kill her). It's a really genuine sentiment that you can't find in too many places besides X-men Legacy.
This casual, emotional moment of reflection is interrupted as is so often the case in comics. Last time it was Exodus, who ranks about a 8.0 on the fucked-up-o-meter. This time it's a threat not quite as dangerous. It's Weapon Omega and Mimic, who literally come crashing in like a drunk driver that stole a drag racer. It doesn't cause too much damage, but it does get Rogue and Cannonball's attention. Beast and Iceman join in as well, knowing when shit impacts around the Jean Grey Institute it's usually a bad sign. And Weapon Omega and Mimic aren't exactly friends. Most recently, they were still on the payroll for Norman Osborn and when Norman Osborn is signing your paychecks you have about as much credibility as Rush Limbaugh on women's rights.
Unlike Exodus, though, Mimic and Weapon Omega didn't come looking for a fight. Mimic actually arrived looking for help. Both Mimic and Weapon Omega have similar powers in the sense that they feed off the mutant abilities of others. For Mimic it just makes him a walking copyright lawsuit. For Weapon Omega, however, it makes him walking time bomb that need only be poked and prodded enough to go off. Some like Iceman are skeptical over the prospects of helping the same people who help Norman Osborn get his coffee. Rogue and Beast are a bit more understanding. Unfortunately, Weapon Omega quickly shows he's past the point of nausea and throwing up. He's officially on a PCP trip, thinking as coherently as a brain dead grizzly with the aggression of a hungry tiger.
Once again, the Jean Grey Institute is subjected to some undue damage. Weapon Omega goes on a roid rage style rampage that includes interrupting a class Chamber was teaching that included loving one's self and sex. And he does it without resorting to the same bawdy displays as Lady Gaga. It's a nice class and one you actually feel bad about Weapon Omega disrupting. It's one of those little details that help make good stories awesome because if they were just learning algebra, you probably wouldn't give a shit if someone came crashing through the wall. Hell, you may wish for that on a daily basis in high school. But I digress.
Chamber helps contribute to the battle against Weapon Omega by firing off a few blasts of his own. This helps soften him up a bit more so Rogue and Cannonball can lure him away from the students. Gambit, Frenzy, and Rachel eventually catch up as well and with a little telepathic nudge they're able to wrestle him away from his power trip. It completes a very well-organized battle, which wasn't quite as volatile as the battle against Exodus but it made up for it in other ways. That's another aspect about X-men Legacy that has made it such a consistent book lately. Not every battle involves two sides simply slugging it out. There's purpose behind that battle, at least more purpose than a mere dick-measuring contest. The pants stay up in this battle. They're not trying to subdue someone. They're trying to help him and unfortunately that requires roughing him up a bit. Reminds me somewhat of gym class in grade school, only slightly less horrific.
When shit finally settles down, the X-men are able to contain Weapon Omega in an isolation chamber. It allows Beast to channel his inner Dr. House and run a few tests. He discovers that Weapon Omega's problem is not unlike what happens when you feed a room full of New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles fans large helpings of baked beans. The energy builds up, getting to a point where it cannot be held in and should the full power be unleashed it would cause mass death and destruction. If you don't think a fart can be that dangerous, then clearly you haven't gotten drunk in a Philadelphia bar during Monday Night Football when the chef had a surplus of refried beans. Weapon Omega absorbs the energy from mutants not unlike Mimic, except he stores the more explosive kind of energy. He's absorbed so much of it that it not only sends him into fits of homicidal rage. It has primed him to explode. There's another analogy for raging football fans, but I think I've gone into enough details.
So they have a mutant with explosive potential locked in a school meant to keep mutants safe. I have to imagine that somewhere in the Marvel Universe Cyclops is laughing his ass off while he's boning Emma Frost. The initial plan is to evacuate the school, get Weapon Omega as far away as possible, and let him blow up in peace. Remarkably, Weapon Omega is okay with this plan. He seems to understand that there's only so much hope for a guy that packs enough energy to blow up an entire school of mutant children. But Mimic and Rogue aren't as eager to let him blow himself up. They come up with a plan to use their absorption powers to siphon off the energy he's absorbed so he's not so explosive. It sounds like a perfectly reasonable plan by most comic standards. The physics are fucked up enough to make Einstein roll over in his grave, but it's better than nothing.
This is where another one of those special X-men Legacy twists come in. They don't happen in every issue. Hell, they don't happen in every arc. When a twist comes along that you don't see coming, it's a beautiful thing when done right. If the writer is good, it'll put a smile on your face and a boner in your pants. If it's done wrong, it'll confuse you more than the last two season of Lost. This time, Christos Gage does it right. Usually, when a couple of characters attempt to give the finger to physics it works out in comics to a certain extent. It's one of those random assumptions that are so rarely question. However, that doesn't happen here.
While Beast makes it clear that he's not convinced of this theory in the same way Rick Santorum isn't convinced of evolution, Rogue and Mimic decide to try it anyways. They coordinate their efforts to drain Weapon Omega's energy, but rather than help him they only triple the crisis. By that I mean they make it so they're now also walking time bombs just like Weapon Omega. See what happens when you try to fuck with physics? Physics will fuck back and she's not gentle either!
The conflicts and enemies the X-men face in Legacy are often as colorful as they are diverse. Exodus was a very basic kind of threat. He was just an overpowered psycho with the reasoning capacity of a horny gorilla. But the threat in this issue is very different. It's not a simple good guys have to stop a bad guy who didn't take his meds. It involves a threat where there's no overt enemy, just a couple of guys badly in need of help and less options than this year's flock of republican primary candidates. It makes for very different stakes and a very different kind of conflict. Weapon Omega comes off as someone who had a few too many hits of a crack pipe and is in serious danger of frying what's left of his brain cells. Now I'm tempted to call him a pussy for not being able to hold his rock, but I'll concede it's a genuine conflict that Gage does extremely well.
Going back to my point about balance, this issue has everything that makes X-men Legacy so enjoyable. It hasn't been caught in the web of Avengers vs. X-men yet. It's further distanced from the events of Schism than the other books, giving it a unique feel that you can enjoy without having to jam ice picks in your brain out of frustration from having to tie in all the other stories from other comics. It's a basic X-men story with all the right intricacies. It has personal moments with Rogue and Weapon Omega. It has a few surprises along the way as well. The ending just brought it all together and you couldn't get much more satisfied without a box of tissues and a fresh bottle of lube.
The more Christos Gage impresses with this series, the more comfortable I am saying he's met the high standards set by Mike Carey. I admit I was really skeptical that he could measure up to what Carey did with this. Usually when I get humbled, it involves me waking up somewhere in my underwear with a phone number pinned to my ass. This is a much better kind of humbling and my pants actually stay on! For this, I'm grateful to Mr. Gage and I'm grateful that this comic has continued the high standards that make X-men Legacy so enjoyable. That's why I give X-men Legacy #264 a 5 out of 5. There are a few basic assumptions we can make about life. We can assume Rick Santorum will say something ridiculously asinine and bigoted. We can assume Rush Limbauh will say something that will offend minorities everywhere. And we can assume X-men Legacy will have a high standard for awesome that will often be met. I'm perfectly comfortable with at least one those assumptions. Nuff said!